37 killed as Pakistan Army battles Taliban in Swat (Lead)

May 6th, 2009 - 9:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 6 (Xinhua/DPA) At least 35 militants and two soldiers were killed as troops targetted insurgents in different parts of Swat in northwest Pakistan, a military statement said here Wednesday.
“Militants, in gross violation of peace accord, continued firing at various checkposts of security forces in Kanju, Saidu Sharif, Matta and other areas of Swat. Militants have planted IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in various areas of Swat to inflict causalities on security forces and civilians,” the statement said.

Two soldiers were killed Wednesday in an IED blast in Bahrain of Swat Valley, the military said.

Armed militants came down from their hideouts into the cities and have occupied civilian houses and government buildings and looted three banks in Mingora, the main city in Swat.

They have also occupied the offices of the police chief and the commissioner at Mingora, the statement said.

According to the military, security forces were targeted from emerald mines at Takhtaband by-pass. In the retaliatory fire, 35 militants were killed.

The operations in Buner and Lower Dir are progressing smoothly and search and cordon operations are being carried out in various areas, said the military.

DPA adds: Thousands of residents have fled the troubled district anticipating an eventual full-scale military offensive.

“The military is engaging militant positions with artillery fire in various areas,” local military spokesman Major Nasir Khan told DPA.

Clashes in Swat, once a popular tourist destination, resumed earlier this week as the peace deal between the government and insurgents neared a collapse.

Khan said ground troops backed by helicopter gunships were also fighting in Shamozai area, located some 25 km from Mingora.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told the English-language daily The News that their fighters were in control of “90 percent” of the Swat valley. He said their actions were in response to “army violation of the peace deal”.

Thousands of people fled from Mingora Tuesday before the authorities imposed an indefinite curfew. Evacuation is also ongoing from other parts of the valley.

A government minister in North West Frontier Province said Tuesday that over half a million people in Swat were feared to be internally displaced.

Pakistani government signed the accord with militants and accepted their demand of establishing Islamic courts in February, hoping that it would end the deadly 16-month conflict.

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